June 12, 2024

United States District Judge Adrienne Nelson upholds recommendation that case belongs in Oregon Circuit Court

Multnomah County Commissioners speak about the lawsuit filed against several of the largest fossil fuel corporations to keep them accountable for the damages arising from the 2021 Pacific Northwest Heat DomeMultnomah County’s civil claim for damages against the fossil fuel industry is headed back to Oregon Circuit Court. The ruling is an important validation by the Federal court of the County’s position that the County’s claims should be heard in state court. The County sued oil companies for fraud, public nuisance, negligence, and trespass a year ago, on the second anniversary of the 2021 Heat Dome that killed more than 116 Oregonians.  

The County alleges that the defendants have long foreseen and misrepresented the climate impacts of burning their fossil fuel products. The County’s lawsuit seeks to hold the corporate players accountable for the costs imposed on the residents of Multnomah County because of their campaign of denial and deception. 

As they have in some 20 other similar cases filed by cities, counties, and states across the country, the fossil fuel defendants removed the case to federal court where they believe they have legal advantages. But, as in all of those other cases, the federal court has “remanded,” sending the case back where it belongs, in state court. 

United States District Judge Adrienne Nelson issued her federal court remand decision today, reviewing and upholding the Findings and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Youlee You as “well-reasoned.” Judge Nelson and Magistrate Judge You both emphasized that the County’s complaint states multiple claims for relief that belong in Oregon Circuit Court. Judge Nelson is the 12th federal district court judge to reject Big Oil’s arguments for federal jurisdiction. 

 Image of Chair Vega Pederson hugging a family member in attendance at the tree planting ceremony “We look forward to the time when a jury will decide this case and deliver a resounding verdict,” said Jeffrey Simon, of Simon Greenstone & Panatier, co-counsel for Multnomah County. “That day will come, we hope soon, and we will be ready for it, no matter how long it takes. Justice demands it. We expect defendants to appeal the final decision to the Ninth Circuit because delay has been their chief tactic in climate litigation to date. For every day they tie us up with tenuous appeals, and avoid discovery while continuing to profit from their deception, justice remains delayed, and thereby denied.”

Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson said, “Through this lawsuit, the County is holding the largest fossil fuel companies accountable for their contributions to human-caused climate pollution. We know that climate-induced weather events like the 2021 Heat Dome harm the residents of Multnomah County and cause real financial costs to our local government. The Court's decision to hear this lawsuit in State Court validates our assertion that the case should be resolved here — it’s an important win for this community.” 

Roger Worthington, of Worthington & Caron, one of the attorneys representing Multnomah County said, “Oregonians face increased risks of escalating climate-related costs to our health and welfare, property, and resources. The land, ocean, and air are heating up, the forests burn every summer, the glaciers continue to melt, and the bill to abate and prevent these foreseeable disasters continues to skyrocket. As our planet hurtles towards the tipping point, now more than ever the judiciary has a crucial role to play in holding the wrongdoers accountable.’’

U.S. District Judge Adrienne Nelson’s opinion and order

Magistrate Youlee You’s Recommendations and Findings

First Amended Complain